Gartner: Blended enterprise architecture on the way

Analyst firm identifies four basic approaches to enterprise architecture: traditional, federated, middle out, and managed diversity. Will this be the path forward for CIOs?

Companies are not only aware of the number of enterprise architecture designs but will soon embrace their diversity, according to a new report from analyst firm Gartner.

Gartner analysts predict that 95 percent of companies will support multiple approaches to enterprise architecture (EA) by 2015 and that the majority of clients will need to support a mixture of more than one of these approaches based on their business needs.

The important thing to note is the realization that enterprises will have no choice but to blend these architecture types into one larger strategy. Gone are days of attempting to strictly adhere to any one specific design principle. This includes the fact that enterprises will have applications and services that live inside and outside of their firewalls in the cloud. It also means that service-oriented architecture (SOA) may finally be a reality as it crosses enterprise borders.

Gartner has identified four basic approaches to enterprise architecture: traditional, federated, middle out, and managed diversity:

  • Traditional provides "prescriptive content that serves to guide project decision making."
  • Federated focuses on "defining the core and common elements between business areas/units."
  • Middle out works toward "managing the key dependencies among those parts of the organization that have the biggest impact on the ability to change."
  • Managed diversity tries to balance the "need for a set of standards with the need for a diversity of solutions."

Blending enterprise architecture approaches is nothing new--companies have been dealing with these issues for a very long time. What's new is the categorization (for better or worse) that will help define the way that IT staff and more specifically CIOs think about the way they are designing their infrastructure.

In fact, with the advent of cloud services and SaaS applications--even outsourced data centers--one could argue that this blended approach has been in place for a number of years. The big question is how much this new taxonomy matters to those who are already down a certain architecture path. In theory, it's nice to be able to classify these types of things, but it's often more beneficial to the analyst firm than the IT staff.

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